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NI women could get free abortions in Scotland on the NHS

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is reportedly examining ways to provide free abortions in Scotland to women from Northern Ireland. Picture by PA
Gareth McKeown

SCOTLAND could provide free abortions on the NHS for women from Northern Ireland, according to reports.

It has been reported that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is examining ways to offer the free service to women who travel from the north for a termination.

At present abortion is illegal in the north, except in instances where a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Terminations of pregnancies arising through instances of rape or incest remain illegal.

Last week the Supreme Court, by a vote of three to two, rejected an appeal for women in Northern Ireland to have abortions paid for by the NHS in England.

The 15-year-old girl at the centre of the case travelled with her mother from the north to a private clinic in Manchester five years ago to have a termination at a cost of £900.

They lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court after an earlier high court battle failed, arguing that the ban on Northern Ireland women having access to NHS funded terminations was unlawful given they were UK residents and taxpayers.

Last year 724 women seeking abortions travelled from Northern Ireland to England to have an abortion, but many were treated at private clinics, incurring hefty costs of as much as £2,000 for the procedure.

The Scottish government is said to want to help Northern Ireland women and is considering a policy change.

A government spokesman told the Sunday Times: "We are supportive of all women having access to safe and legal abortions. We will carefully consider last week's Supreme Court judgement and implications it may have in Scotland."

Successive DUP health ministers have blocked attempts to relax the north's restrictive abortion laws, particularly in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.

Several doctors reported a “culture of fear” after former DUP minister Edwin Poots reinforced the law in 2013, threatening jail time for those acting outside strict abortion guidelines.

The DUP did not respond yesterday to a request for comment from the Irish News.

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